Many young women needlessly spoil their chances of a satisfying social life, says Mary K. McKinney, a senior staff psychologist at the University of Michigan Psychological Clinic, Ann Arbor. "A surprising number of young women say they have turned down dates because they feel ugly or fat. Others describe breaking off new relationships before they have a chance to become physically intimate because they're afraid the man will be repulsed by their bodies. It's really quite sad. Many women end up avoiding romance because of the harshness of their negative thoughts about their bodies."
These are young women whose weight is normal, notes McKinney, who conducts workshops on eating issues and body image. They don't have eating disorders, but they still feel fat and ugly.
She points out that women in their teens and 20s who are constructing their adult feminine identities and trying to establish sexual relationships are particularly vulnerable to developing body-image concerns. Among the signs these women should be asking themselves about are:
When friends or family members compliment your appearance, do you automatically discount the compliment and assume it's untrue? Do you avoid social situations, such as swim parties, because of concerns about your physical appearance? Do you hate certain features of your face or body so much that you're often preoccupied with these "flaws" when you're in a social situation? Do you think your life would be different, and automatically happier, if you wore a smaller dress size, had bigger breasts, …